By Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn; Scallen, Catherine B.; Rembrandt, Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn
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Petersburg. 54 While they first appeared in German, the English editions of this work became the standard guide to art collections in Great Britain for the rest of the century. Waagen’s descriptions of the art works he had seen (often only in passing and under poor viewing conditions) were laconic and generally limited to aesthetic platitudes; he did, however, venture new attributions in many cases and commented on the condition of art works as a factor influencing judgment of quality. 56 In the years after 1850 the practice of connoisseurship was aided enormously by technological innovations in European society.
Lacking hard evidence to support their conclusions in most instances, connoisseurs inevitably personalized these exchanges, where it was one scholar’s word – and eye – against another’s. While it might now seem minor in importance, Bode’s debate with Wurzbach gained notoriety over time. 44 While Wurzbach had taunted Bode about his “green Rembrandts,” Bode would have the last word. 45 Bode began his essay with the earliest Rembrandt painting known at the time, the Saint Paul in Prison in Stuttgart of 1627, and concluded with those painted in 1631, the last year of Rembrandt’s residence in Leiden.
But at least one reason for his demurring at this approach was thoroughly reasonable in light of the knowledge of Rembrandt’s art in 1870. Many significant works assigned to Rembrandt lacked dates completely, and with Rembrandt painting connoisseurship still in its infancy, these pictures posed a significant problem for a chronological classification. Vosmaer chose to exclude such paintings altogether, but as Bode pointed out, the resulting omission of many important undated paintings attributed to Rembrandt skewed any attempt to attain a comprehensive understanding of the artist’s career.